I'm trying to move some files off an 15-year-old PC running Windows 3.1.

I copied them onto a floppy disk that I formatted in Windows 3.1. I tried to read the floppy on a Windows XP machine, but it reckoned that the floppy wasn't formatted.

Any idea how I can read the floppy on Windows XP?


It should work -- floppy drives have been using the same file system (FAT12) since long before Windows 3.1.

I'd suspect the problem is either a bad drive on your XP machine, or a bad disk. I'd try a few more floppies to be safe. And in case there are file-system differences I'm unaware of, format them on the XP machine before bringing them down to W3.1 to copy the files.

  • Floppy drives are notorious for writing disks they only can read. Wear and miscalibration in the head positioning servo is the cause. I suspect the drive on your Windows 3.1 machine is dieing. – Fiasco Labs Oct 12 '13 at 16:14

Floppy disks formatted in FAT should be visible on any operating system.

I often had problems like this - the dreaded old "The disk is not formatted" message, it usually turned out to be either one of the drives was dying or the floppy drive itself does not support the format (e.g. using 1.4Mb disks in a 720KB drive).

The easiest thing I can recommend is one of the following:

If you have networking on the old machine, try installing an ftp client on the Win3.1 machine and Filezilla on the XP machine.

If it has a network card but it isn't set up, try using a Linux live CD to again FTP the data across.

If both machines have a serial cable, try to track down an old copy of laplink or similar.

There are a few other options, but if worse comes to the worse, the easiest thing you can do is to unplug the hard drive and put it an USB dock or straight in to the new machine and copy across.


Ah: and now it reads the floppy just fine. Must have been my USB floppy drive acting up?

  • 2
    This should be ab edit to your original post or a comment. – Xavierjazz Aug 24 '10 at 19:16
  • I disagree: it's an answer, me suggesting to myself that I just try it again. And it worked. – Paul D. Waite Aug 24 '10 at 20:01

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